SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the California Air Resources Board, and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed suit Tuesday against the Trump Administration for its unlawful attempt to dismantle critical environmental waste protections. After attempting to illegally delay and suspend its implementation, the Trump Administration has now acted to repeal the Waste Prevention Rule. This rule requires oil and natural gas producers to take cost-effective measures to cut wasteful leakage of methane on federal and tribal lands.
“With this attempt to axe the Waste Prevention Rule, the Trump Administration risks the air our children breathe and at taxpayers’ expense,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We’ve sued the Administration before over the illegal delay and suspension of this rule and will continue doing everything in our power to hold them accountable for the sake of our people and planet.”
The Waste Prevention Rule was finalized by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on November 18, 2016, and went into effect on January 17, 2017. It assesses royalties on gas that operators allow to escape into the atmosphere, requires increased inspections to prevent leaks, and phases out routine flaring. BLM estimated that the Rule would have substantial annual benefits, including eliminating 175,000 tons of methane emissions (the same 20-year climate impact as more than 3 million passenger vehicles driving for one year), 150,000 tons of volatile organic compounds, and 1,860 tons of hazardous air pollutants. It would also save and put to use 41 billion cubic feet of natural gas (enough to serve more than 554,000 homes for a year) and generate up to $14 million in additional royalties. Half of these royalties, per federal law, would be allocated to states.
The Rule has been attacked by the Trump Administration on previous occasions:
In June, the Trump Administration issued a notice delaying key requirements of the Waste Prevention Rule. Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas filed a lawsuit against this action on July 5, 2017. In October, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in favor of the two state Attorneys General, ordering the Administration to immediately implement the Rule.
In December, the Trump Administration finalized a notice to suspend key requirements of the Rule after an abbreviated public comment process. Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas and the California Air Resources Board filed another lawsuit on December 19, 2017, challenging this suspension and moved for a preliminary injunction. In February, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted the injunction, finding that the Administration had failed to offer any reasoned explanation for its action, putting the Rule back into effect.
In February, the Trump Administration published the proposal to repeal the Rule in the Federal Register, prompting a comment letter from Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas expressing their opposition.
Additionally, since December 2016, California and New Mexico have been defending the Waste Prevention Rule from legal challenges brought in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming by industry groups and the States of Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, and Texas. On April 4, 2018, the Wyoming court issued an order blocking the implementation of several provisions of the Rule. Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas have appealed that order to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Notably, on May 10, 2017, the Republican-led U.S. Senate voted against repealing the Waste Prevention Rule, despite President Trump’s desire to roll it back.
A copy of the complaint submitted by Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas can be viewed here.